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Two recent studies have found a connection between living in larger, denser cities and lower overall happiness. Using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the studies found the factors that most affected urban happiness were high housing costs, longer commute time and general overcrowding.
A study conducted by John Winters and Yu Li, both from Oklahoma State University, they speculated that demand for housing is higher in more densely populated areas. With approximately 8.5 million people currently calling NYC home, it is by far the large city in the country.
With a population as high as NYC’s, it’s not surprising that the demand for housing is equally high. More expensive rents, and fewer affordable housing options are not uncommon. Li and Winters found it is also not unusual to work longer hours to pay for housing. This is on top of the already longer commute times.
According to Trulia data, NYC commutes the longest in the country, an average of 35 minutes. Simply put: people tend to be more miserable when their commutes are longer. Winters and Li reported shorter commutes resulted in increased happiness levels.
The second study, conducted by Adam Okulicz-Kozarty and Joan Maya Mazelis, from Rutgers University-Camden, saw that over-crowding plays a strong role in overall urban happiness.
According to Okulicz-Kozartyn and Mazelis, urban areas with populations exceeding 300,000 people ranked as the most unhappy. Residents of larger cities also face problems like anonymity and isolation.
It’s easy for a person to get lost among the mass of people and develop less meaningful relationships with others. This, unsurprisingly, can lead to increased loneliness, and depression.
Both studies found that while people living in the suburbs saw less diversity in amenities, they paid far less for housing, had stronger interpersonal relationships, and enjoyed less big city-related frustrations like traffic, higher crime and poverty — all of which contributed to their higher levels of overall happiness.
Okulicz-Kozartyn went so far as to say unhappy places, such as overcrowded cities, tend to attract more unhappy people to begin with. They often attract a younger demographic, who later make the move to the happier suburbs when they are ready to settle down.